HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Florida—Early in the week, Luis Gagne talked about what an incentive it is to see his college roommate from LSU, Sam Burns, playing on the PGA TOUR. Gagne spoke about how happy he was for Burns and how he hoped to soon join Burns playing at professional golf’s highest level. Friday at Mission Inn Club and Resort, at the second Mackenzie Tour Qualifying Tournament of the year, Gagne moved toward achieving that goal as he held at least a share of the lead through the first three rounds then stood alone when it counted. Gagne, a Costa Rica native who grew up in nearby Orlando, shot a final-round, 5-under 67 to defeat playing partner Cristian DiMarco by three shots and amateur Zack Taylor by four.
With the win comes access for Gagne to every 2021 Mackenzie Tour tournament, a significant achievement for a player who previously held conditional status on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.
“It feels good. I’m just really excited to have somewhere to play a full season and make a schedule. I’m really proud of myself,” Gagne said. “I played solid. I stayed really focused the whole time—all 72 holes. I didn’t ever lose my focus, and I think that was the key this week.”
Gagne also minimized his mistakes, making only six bogeys over his 72 holes. He was also a cumulative 11-under on El Campeon’s four par-5s, with two birdies and two eagles on No. 10 and birdies all four days on No. 14.
“This gives me a lot of reassurance that what I’m working on is the right stuff and I’m in the right direction,” he added about his performance, the second Latin player to secure full Mackenzie Tour status in as many weeks. Seven days ago, Colombian Camilo Aguado was medalist at the Qualifying Tournament in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Weston.
Before the round, Gagne’s goal was to get through his first eight holes at even-par or better, something he accomplished with seven pars and a 35-foot birdie putt at No. 3. He then got things rolling, with a birdie to close his opening nine. He added birdies at the 10th, a hole he dominated all week, and at No. 11.
“That gave me a little cushion, and the rest was history,” he added.
Gagne did add a little drama to the end of his tournament, barely clearing the lake that fronts the 18th-hole landing area on his drive as he held a two-shot lead. He was confident his ball had made it over the water as he didn’t see a splash. His only question was whether his ball was plugged. When he arrived, with two rules officials on the scene, he saw that it was not plugged, and with it landing in a patch of the rough deemed ground under repair, Gagne was entitled to a free drop. On his approach into the par-4, Gagne wanted to play a cut to the middle of the green, with the pin on the right side toward the water.
“Once I got up there and saw that it was plugged outside of the hazard, I gave a big sigh of relief. I was aiming toward the center of the green, and I cut it a couple of yards too much and it landed it right next to the pin.” From there, he poured in a six-footer for his final birdie of the tournament and his three-shot margin of victory.
DiMarco and Taylor, as well as John Clare, Jake Scott and amateur Saptak Talwar (all tied for fourth), accomplished what they came to do—earn full status for the first half of the Mackenzie Tour season.
The third Mackenzie Tour Qualifying Tournament is set for next week, starting Tuesday, March 9, in Dothan, Alabama, at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Highland Oaks.